Friday, December 30, 2005


Grandma has lost her hearing. It happened almost overnight, and though the doctor says one ear is better than the other, the overall effect is dirt poor hearing. Bud's hearing deteriorated slowly, over many years, and Carolyn served as his back-up ears. Hearing aids have helped Bud quite a bit but they magnify every sound and it is not the same or nearly as good as normal hearing.

Carolyn is adjusting. Some friends are coming from Juneau and they will bring Bud's old hearing aids for her to try. When they return to Alaska in April, she will see an audiologist and see what can be done.

But what a loss! Many things are missed: undercurrents in conversation, overlapping dialogue, asides and nuances. Sometimes, even with the best circumstances, comprehension is poor. We speak louder and make sure they are looking at us when we talk but some voices are particularly hard to decipher. We have a new acquaintance with a soft, gravelly voice and a hint of a Scottish brogue - Bud and Carolyn have a real hard time hearing him.

My friend, Josh, had a cochlear implant in August. He is 35 and has been "sort of" deaf since he was 3. He had sound magnified as much as possible with hearing aids and learned to sign fluently. He also got through Yale without much effort and learned to speak more Bemba in Zambia than any other Peace Corps Volunteer in his group. If there are obstacles to overcome, it definitely helps to be brilliant.

So now Josh hears better than he ever has. Insertion of the implant required brain surgery and the implant requires programming and reprogramming to optimize its performance. It is a great big deal, a lot of pain and expense and uncertainty but now he can hear. Josh writes of the blessing of hearing a bus accelerate, something we gripe about every day. He can hear now, just like most of us. What a gain!

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